Re: I want to be a tech writer

Subject: Re: I want to be a tech writer
From: Bonni Graham <bonnig -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 10:34:18 -0700

Dave demyan makes a number of good points (although I don't think Gwen
was being as negative as he paints her being and I CERTAINLY don't
think she was being discouraging), but in the spirit of encouraging
beginning tech writers, I feel I need to correct one of his statements:

><snip> We all know the
>basics: Good BA/BS, data processing or other technical specialty,
>MA in technical writing or composition, and forget the PhD for now.

These are not necessarily "the basics". A good BA/BS will help, but,
depending on the comapny you want to work for, and the area of TW you
want to go into, it doesn't necessarily need to be in a technical
specialty. My BA is in Literature/Writing, from UCSD (The Few, The
Proud, The UCSD Writing Majors!). I've been able to pick up all the
technical information I need to do my job (software documentation) well

a) having lots of friends who are programmers
b) treating the technical staff like worthwhile human beings (who have
the same thrill for math or technical subjects that I have for

In addition, one of the best technical writers I know has, gasp, NO
DEGREE AT ALL! She continues to be gainfully employed for more than
adequate compensation.

I have no MA. If I had read that an MA was a basic requirement of
becoming a technical writer, THAT would have discouraged me far more
than being told that there was no magic bullet that would make me a
great writer. After six years of undergraduate work, working an
*additional* fifty to sixty hours a week to support myself, being told
I had to face ANOTHER several years to get ANOTHER degree so I could
start out in my profession would simply have been too much. Now, if I
had not had to support myself and pay tuition/books/parking (i.e., if
someone else footed the bill), I might have gone for it.

I'll probably go BACK and get an MA at some point (bravo to the poster
who is doing so!), but I didn't need one to start out.

If you have an interest in the branch of technology for which you want
to write, and (in this day and age) a BA in writing OR a technical
specialty, and can demonstrate strong writing skills, you're ready to

Bonni Graham
Manual Labour

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